Mon­treal of­fers visi­tors a cap­ti­vat­ing blend of old and new at­trac­tions

There are new sites for that

Journal Pioneer - - DESTINATIONS - BY PAULINE FROMMER Pauline Frommer is the Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor for the Frommer Travel Guides and From­mers.com. She co-hosts the ra­dio pro­gram “The Travel Show” with her fa­ther, Arthur Frommer and is the au­thor of the best-sell­ing “Frommer’s Easy Guide to Ne

It’s been a big year for birth­day can­dles in Mon­treal: Not only is the city cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s 150th an­niver­sary, but it also has its own found­ing 375 years ago to be grate­ful for. But it would be wrong to as­sume that age alone is what makes Mon­treal in­trigu­ing. The trav­el­ers who en­joy the city to the fullest look to what’s new as well as to the old.

This in­cludes sev­eral at­trac­tions that were cre­ated just for the 375th an­niver­sary but will stick around long af­ter the clock strikes mid­night on Dec. 31. The most suc­cess­ful of these is Aura, a sound-and-light show set in the city’s most strik­ing space: the Basilique de Notre-Dame. Over the course of this 30-minute spec­ta­cle, de­tails of the NeoGothic church — its cas­tle-like al­tar, del­i­cately gilded col­umns and star-span­gled ceil­ing — are picked out by sur­gi­cally pre­cise light­ing or washed in projections that turn the church into a for­est, en­gulf­ing it in a flood of Noah-like pro­por­tions. It may sound hokey, but the ef­fect is mag­i­cal, and it’s a tes­ta­ment to the ar­chi­tec­ture as much as to the show.

Less in­trigu­ing, but still worth­while (es­pe­cially if you have kids in tow), is Cite Me­moire, a free app-based walk­ing tour through Vieux Mon­treal (the old­est part of the city). It has two com­po­nents: Dur­ing the day, visi­tors can train their phones at cer­tain his­toric build­ings and learn about their his­tory, some­times even see­ing recre­ations of what it would have looked like when it was first built.

Af­ter night­fall, visi­tors can use the app to dis­play video projections on the walls, streets and even trees of the old city. These tell the sto­ries of dif­fer­ent fig­ures through­out the his­tory of Mon­treal - the city’s first ex­e­cu­tioner, a 1950s hockey player and the so­cial rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies of the 1960s.

The lat­ter sounds ex­cit­ing and is tech­no­log­i­cally im­pres­sive, but the cre­ators don’t have the sto­ry­telling chops to bring these por­traits to life. And un­like the day­time tour, which is the bet­ter of the two, the projections usu­ally have noth­ing to do with the build­ing they’re dis­played upon.

Projections also are at the core of the nightly il­lu­mi­na­tions at the Jacques Cartier Bridge (ti­tled “Liv­ing Con­nec­tions”). It’s a pretty sight, and one that visi­tors can ma­nip­u­late: Tweet the hash­tag #Mon­treal on Twit­ter, and a shoot­ing star will zoom across the bridge. If you look at the bridge’s web­site (http:// jacquescartier­cham­plain.ca), you’ll learn about the other ways the il­lu­mi­na­tions are af­fected (they in­clude weather, wind di­rec­tion, traf­fic and re­quests from watch­ers). With 365 col­ors to play with, the cre­ators claim that ev­ery evening, a unique light show is pre­sented.

De­cid­edly more low-tech, but just as ex­cit­ing, is Mon­treal’s mu­rals district. Ev­ery June, artists come from across the globe to leave their mark on the city dur­ing a two-week fes­ti­val. While crowds watch (and bands play), they paint works of all sorts on walls across cen­tral Mon­treal. These stay up in­def­i­nitely, and af­ter five years of fes­ti­vals, there now are more than 80 vi­brant mu­rals across cen­tral Mon­treal, in­clud­ing a sev­eral-sto­ries-high paint­ing of lo­cal hero mu­si­cian Leonard Co­hen, a ren­der­ing of the Seven Deadly Sins in ice cream cones and a witty take on the “Mona Lisa.”

PAULINE FROMMER

A twisted take on the Mona Lisa is just one of the many com­pelling mu­rals in Mon­treal.

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